If you have social anxiety, meeting new people and making friends can be painfully difficult. And you may assume that the friendships you do have aren't that great. But a new study from Washington University in St. Louis brings good news: You're coming off much better than you think.
The study asked 112 people (some of whom had been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, and some of whom hadn't) to bring along a friend, and then asked each friend to evaluate the quality of that friendship.
The ones with social anxiety disorder tended to overestimate how bad their friendships were. "People with social anxiety disorder report that their friendships are worse, but their friends didn't see it the same way. Their friends seem to say something more like, 'It's different, but not worse,'" said study co-author Thomas Rodebaugh, PhD, in a press release sweetly titled, "You May Already Be Someone's Best Friend."
More than just shyness, social anxiety disorder is characterized by a crippling fear of being embarrassed or judged by others in social situations. About 15 million adults in the U.S. suffer from social anxiety, and 36% had symptoms for 10 or more years before getting help, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The best treatment? Talk therapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy.
Getting help is important, as is learning to make friends, Rodebaugh notes, because not having strong social connections can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being. Fortunately, you may already be a lot better at it than you realize.